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If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood
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If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  79,558 ratings  ·  6,987 reviews
After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and ps

Paperback, 428 pages
Published December 1st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer (first published November 1st 2019)
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Erin Written by someone who clearly knows absolutely nothing about trauma, trauma bonding or anything else related to systemic, horrific abuse. There's a r…moreWritten by someone who clearly knows absolutely nothing about trauma, trauma bonding or anything else related to systemic, horrific abuse. There's a reason you don't understand. I'd focus on being grateful for that lack of understanding, instead of criticizing something that's outside your scope of comprehension. Let me guess? You also think it's super duper easy for victims of domestic violence to just get up and leave too, right? (less)
K. Y. I agree. Also, the way the author 'treated' the victims... They seemed to be just a means to an end. I don't think he made any attempt to explain what…moreI agree. Also, the way the author 'treated' the victims... They seemed to be just a means to an end. I don't think he made any attempt to explain what happened here psychologically, why the victims didn't walk away. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  79,558 ratings  ·  6,987 reviews

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Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This was a disturbing book. Sometimes things that really have happened are far worse than anything one can dream up in their mind. This is a tale of abuse, manipulation, and complete and utter disregard for human suffering. Where one woman got off on the emotional and physical pain she could inflict on others - mainly her children and those closest to her. How she got away with this for so long is a mystery.

“I loved my mother because I didn’t know I had a choice. I had to love her.”

What hap
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
2.5 Stars
Just to be clear I am not judging or rating this book on the horrific happenings or the cruelty that took place within this family and I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up in a home with fear and violence part of every day life or with parents like the Knoteks. My rating reflects how the book came across to me as a reader who had never heard of this family or what took place within the household. We all react differently to books and this is just my reaction

This book ca
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A tragic story, but...

I found it difficult to engage with the story. I understand that the author has had to cobble together, many different points of view and try to create a coherent timeline for the story, but if found it clunky and sadly lacking in depth.

Don't get me wrong, this is a truly tragic and mind boggling account of terrible acts and my heart goes out to the victims. The strength and bond the sisters have retained is incredible. On the other hand, the terrible complicity and acts of
It took me no time at all to read this. Why? Well you hear about crimes and crazy things ppl do or split minute decisions made in haste, but I have never heard of someone like the mother in this story. She had a switch. She seemed to have a hair trigger. The book even remarked on that. It also well documents and shows you exactly what this means. Happy to horribly mean, calm to hellaciously evil and vengeful.

I’m not sure she had all of her humanity included when she was born? Or maybe in her fo
Dan McDonald
Dark, Disturbing, Drawn Out, and Ultimately Dissatisfying

If you're going to write a book about a mentally ill, sadistic serial killer you should probably spend more time talking about her mental illness or at least trying to explain the "why" instead of just the "what." I never felt like I understood the motivations or motivating force behind any of the people in this tragedy. Was Shelly suffering from borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, both? What would the exper
Grace Anderson
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m pretty horrified that Shelly was allowed to get away with so much. Horrified.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poorly written. Poorly interpreted.

Yuck. Just yuck. The subject matter...the written word. I wanted to find out “what happened”. But it was a REAL struggle to read. So many ways this story could have been shortened. So much superfluous text. Just yuck.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an intense book about mental, physical abuse and murder. A mother and wife who was a psychopathic, narcissistic, abusive, manipulating, murder. She tortured her children, manipulated everyone and should have been on death row, for what she did. It was sometimes hard to listen, awkward hearing what she would do her children and people who came to live with them. It was an excellent book, that brings to light, how crazy some people are. How lucky I am to have the family I do. I don’t know ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Q: The best calls came at three in the morning. (c)

Q: Even on the crazy train, there is a place where the world is shut out and things go on feeling as though they are normal or even worth fighting for. (c) The world's most fucked up train with Shelly Knotek as the lead conductor.

This is I dunno what. If at least some of this is true then this is a bonkers batshit story. And it does seem to be credible.

I have no idea how that gal managed to get off with this much military grade crap. What the he
Ileana Renfroe
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why? How? How could she have done all those things?

From the moment I started reading this book I was hooked. I kept asking, why did the police not react sooner? They are to blame for Ron’s death, no question. But most importantly, How terrible these girls had to endure all those years of torture. However, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, and in this story it tells of three sisters who found the courage to finally tell the truth. Three strong women who are survivors. Thank you to
Valerity (Val)
This is a crazy good book by Gregg Olsen about a really dysfunctional family that becomes painful at times to read. The more you read, the more you see it going off in the ditch. You can’t help but watch the train wreck though. The main twistee, Shelly, is a real piece of work. She loves to inflict maximum punishment and humiliation on her victims, who are her own three children, along with a young male nephew she’s taken in, along with her former hairdresser Kathy, who moved in to help out at a ...more
Debbie "Buried in Her TBR Pile"
3 stars

(view spoiler)
Cheryl James
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a 5 star book of craziness and sadness. I could not believe that this mother, wife, aunt, and friend was able to manipulate, torture, harass and kill people in this day and time. I pray that this story goes viral. Children and Adults need to know that there is help to get them out of a horrible situation. People like this mother and father should rot in jail with no chance of getting out. How do they sleep at night? Kudos to the 3 sisters for standing up and disclosing the truth about th ...more
Jade Violet
I'm going to need a minute on this one. Feel like I have to go take a shower first and bleach my mind before I say anything... Oh, that was a bad choice of words considering.
This is truly a shocking and disturbing crime. I thought Olsen did a good job of covering the abuse and murders but at the end there was still so much I would have liked to have known. At one point in the book, the police were accused of not doing anything with information that was given to them. I was kind of interested in finding out their point of view. Was there procedures that they had to follow that didn't allow them to do something at that moment? Was there not enough evidence to allow th ...more
Margaret Jones
Nov 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Talk about dysfunctional families!

Unbelievably sadistic, psychopathic mother. Weak, submissive husband. Three abused daughters. Three tortured, murdered "boarders". Another true crime horror story by Gregg Olsen. He's not the best writer. Repetitive and illogical reiteration of a cult-like group of inadequate, two dimensional characters who never come alive on the page. Disappointing.
Lauren Morse
Wow this was....terrible. I mean, the story is obviously terrible, and would be no matter what, but couple that with the awful writing, lack of editing, repetitive phrasing, and cutesy metaphors and puns - and you get this dumpster fire.
Lynda Kelly
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book Gregg Olsen has ever written. It's the fifth I've read by him and I've usually been pretty disappointed as his proofreaders or editors have done an atrocious job, but this one is WAY better presented altogether. I see it's been a few years since he wrote a true crime book so the break's done him the world of good as this one is fascinating. I did dither a little over selecting it as my Kindle First choice for the month, but I'm pleased I gave him this "last chance" !!
It's not a ca
Nancy Hudson
2.5 stars. Horrific story that went under the radar due to the nature of the crimes and the way Shelley Knotek and her husband were convicted and sentenced . The story is unbelievable at times but I think this is largely due to the way Olsen writes. He doesn’t have a solid timeline, gets bogged down in repetitive details that don’t add to the story and doesn’t really add the depth needed for a good TC book. I read one of his years ago and it was the same. He hasn’t written TC in some time so I t ...more
Deborah Rogers
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If You Tell is quite a story...It's not that often that you get an inside view into the world of a female psychopath and, god, what a disturbing journey that is. I can't wrap my head around the fact that Shelly, the central perpetrator and aforementioned psychopath, was a mother of three children. She was a truly wicked woman...If You Tell is a detailed account of what went on behind closed doors and a must read for all true crime fans.
Lyn❤Loves❤Listening #AUDIOBOOKADDICT
Audio 5 Stars
Story dnf @ 38%

Maybe if this wasn't a true story, I'd be able to push through. But knowing that the level of depravity depicted in this book actually happened...I just can't hang. I'm not that brave soul. It's too disturbing.

Nica's Musings
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is my very first true crime novel. I don't think I've ever read a true crime book before. I usually just watch Forensic Files and/or documentaries and podcasts.

The story is about a mother who horribly abused her three daughters. The abuse was shocking and something I've never heard before. This all happened in their house in Raymond, Washington. Shelly Knotek was beautiful but behind that pretty face is someone who is manipulative and is just evil. Shelly took in her bestfriend, Kat
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ok I'm giving If You Tell by Gregg Olsen 5🌟 not for the story but for the 3 very strong and brave sisters who survived their horrendous piece of SHIT mother I'm sorry for saying that but that women is just terrible (so no I'm not really 😏)
How can anyone from such a young age do the things she did still get married 3 times have 3 children have most people think she is some kind of normal human being, not everyone but most and have so much power and control over people for them to feel the need it
Elizabeth George
I suppose it's because I'm a crime writer, but I've always been drawn to true crime books. The psychopathology of the criminal both intrigues and interests me. Gregg Olsen's book is no exception. This book chronicles the abuse and horrors inflicted upon both her family and friends by Shelly Knotek over a period of years in Washington state. It's a compelling portrait of psychosis, borderline personality disorder, and the power of denial. For anyone who is interested in observing how one individu ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: abuse, audio, true-crime
5 stars audio
5 very tough read story.
Karen R
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A shocking and heart-wrenching story of physical and emotional abuse which absolutely broke my heart. I cannot fathom what these sisters went through as children. Such a desperate situation in which they learned that the only way to keep safe from a monstrous mother who showed no mercy was to look the other way. How can a mother have such evil in her heart, coming up with so many different acts of horrendous cruelty, to not only her children but to other victims she brought into her home and tor ...more
Ruthy lavin
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it

A truly Horrifying real life tale of the vile person who is Shelley Knotek, and the fatal misery she inflicted on those around her.
KD Jones
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Once you stayreading this book you won't be able to put it down!! Just an amazing story!!
Maria ( ZITA ) Silva
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
OMG How terrifying, how these poor girls lived. Their mother and father are evil humans beings
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Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Olsen has written ten nonfiction books, ten novels, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on

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